Human Resources

What Makes an Effective CU Manager?

A new report explores what kind of employees make the best middle managers.

May 14, 2012
KEYWORDS employees , managers , study
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A new Filene Research Institute report explores what kind of employees make superlative middle managers and how credit unions can identify and promote them.

Here's how superior middle managers differ from average employees, according to “Attributes and Skills of Highly Effective Credit Union Managers:”

  • Learning. Because highly effective middle managers must learn quickly and be adept at problem solving, 87% fall at or above average.
  • Energy. The “tendency to display endurance and capacity for a fast pace” is a key characteristic, with 86% scoring above average.
  • Decisiveness. Using available information to make decisions quickly is critical, with 80% of respondents above average.
  • Verbal skills. Among good middle managers, 69% are above average in verbal skills, making them better able to communicate effectively with members, subordinates, peers, and executives.

But just as important is to understand where this group underscores the averages, the report says. Being lower than average isn’t negative, but it highlights traits where good middle managers are atypical:

  • Objective judgment. Great middle managers are far less likely than average employees to rely solely on data in decision making. The fact that 79% fall at or below the average indicates a strong reliance on intuition rather than just facts.
  • Manageability. Highly effective managers want their own leaders to define outcomes and then let them complete those goals with relatively free rein—72% score below average in manageability.
  • Accommodating. Good middle managers are significantly less accommodating than the norm. With 73% scoring below average, good middle managers know when they shouldn’t go with the flow.

“This report can be used as a tool for hiring and promoting in the middle management ranks,” points out Ben Rogers, Filene’s director of research. But whether you use a formal screening mechanism or rely on interviewing and your own intuition, Rogers says understanding these factors and how they play into effective credit union management will help you hire and promote more successfully.

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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